Sep 5 2018
Citizens of Piedmont attended the Let’s Talk Workshop that took place on Saturday, August 25, 2018,  to gain a new understanding of the community they live in and the social aspects involved.

The leader of the Let’s Talk sessions, Sara Wicht, began this first morning session with a mirror activity. In this activity, everyone in the room had to find a partner that they had not talked to that day. The partners decided who would be partner A, and who would be partner B. The direction were for partner B to mirror every motion that partner A made, and then after a minute, the partners would switch roles.

After, a group reflection was held where people could share what they were feeling as they were both the leader and the follower. Many people who had to be the leader the first round said that there was a lot of pressure to lead, and that it was much easier for them to be the follower. They said that as a follower, you have one objective, to follow, but as a leader you constantly have to think about what you are doing and what you are going to do next. I, however, felt that it was easier for me to be the leader once I felt comfortable with my partner. I was partner B, so I had a minute to feel comfortable with my partner before I made him mirror my motions.

After the reflection, Wicht compared the leading and following to that of two people having a conversation. If the follower does not pay attention for even a second because they get distracted or are already thinking up a response before the leader is finished, it can throw the whole conversation off. It is important, in a conversation, for everyone to have a chance to be a leader, and for everyone to be a loyal follower once their leading is over.

Next, each table group talked about which goal was most important for each individual out of the goals Wicht provided for the session. The goals were to demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identity.

Then, transitioning more onto the topic of identity, Wicht led an activity in which she told the group to make a list of 8 things. Each one was a different part of one’s identity; race, nationality, gender, socio-economic class, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

Then, without giving the participants much time to think in between, they had to eliminate a part of their identity which they found the least defining of who they are until they were left with just one. The table groups debriefed on how it felt to have to eliminate a part of their identity, and whether it was easy or not. Wicht then brought the group back together and said that if you take away a part of you, even if it is not a huge part of your identity, you still will not be you anymore.

“This is a really important issue for this town,” participant Diana Miller said. “We’re in such a bubble here, and Oakland is just right there, and we have so much that we need to do to help improve our minds and our outlooks and our communication and our relationships with people who are not like ourselves, and anything that I can do to make that happen, I’m gonna try.”

Wicht then transitioned into race, focusing on how you see the world, and how the world sees you. She said that a sense of race is developed at a really young age, and therefore there is no time “too early” to start talking about it.

“Silence perpetuates racism,” Wicht said.

Wicht then brought up the idea of implicit bias, and how it is unconscious or automatic. She presented situations, and the group was to determine whether there was implicit bias involved. The groups reflection afterwards was that the situations were too vague and without enough context to just assume that implicit bias was in fact involved in each of the decisions of the people in the situations. It can be with bad intentions, but first we have to see it from every perspective.

“I got some level of satisfaction sitting with students who have the world ahead of them,” Miller said. “There is a lot of mind opening that happened that I think we may not even realize and I think some change has happened in the last three hours.”

by Roni Schacker, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let’s Talk!
Last Sunday I attended one of the “Let’s Talk” seminars that was supported and run bythe Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) and Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC). The seminar was run by Sara Wicht, who has taught all over the world, including Rio De Janeiro, Minnesota, and California to name a few.

Normally throughout the year PADC and PUSD will have 2-4 Let’s Talk seminars. Other speakers there included Jen Cavenaugh, a Piedmont City Council member, and Randall Booker, Superintendent of PUSD.

The main goal of the meeting was to navigate polarization and find out what Piedmont as a community can do to combat it. The suggested solution was to learn how to discuss opposing arguments respectfully and effectively. Ms. Wicht also stressed that when discussing these issues we must make sure the person does not feel excluded or like an outcast.

First, Ms. Wicht showed us the main parts of a conversation and how they can be kept civil instead of argumentative. She stated that the best way to keep a conversation civil is to, “Ask yourself what you are trying to learn and accept the other side, even if you do not agree.” A conversation is broken into seven different parts that include intention, approach, opener, sparks, reciprocity, exits, and reflection.

Throughout the seminar at our table groups we discussed how to make each part the most respectful and beneficial for each person. As a group we acknowledged that the most important tip for all of these parts of conversations is to be accepting and understand that you do not need change the other’s point of view.

Following the table discussions about conversations, Ms. Wicht pulled everyone back together to talk about “Modeling neighborly behavior.” She considered this to be the second most important part of diversity awareness and inclusion. Examples of neighborly behavior include celebrating diversity, gathering neighbors at public events/discussions, sending inclusive signals to neighbors, and listening to personal experiences.

One of the other people at my table was Megan Pillsbury. Ms. Pillsbury had heard great things about the “Let’s Talk” meetings but this was her first time in attendance.  She came because she felt that she should be a part of this movement for more inclusiveness and diversity awareness. On top of that she was is going to run for School Board and as part of her campaign she wants to take steps to create a more inclusive community.

Previous to her campaign Ms. Pillsbury taught for over fifteen years at Wildwood Elementary School. She wanted to come because she saw that many of her classes were not as diverse as she expected. Ms. Pillsbury hopes to be elected to the school board and take action by promoting diversity awareness for all ages throughout the PUSD school system.

Personally, I thought the seminar was very engaging. It gave me lots of helpful tips for engaging in beneficial conversations when discussing political differences or diversity. Compared to many of the people there, I would say I have more conservative views. During many of the discussion portions I had lots of different ideas than the majority of the people at the table. However, everyone was respectful, accepting and willing to listen, which was really great to see. I would definitely recommend that you check out one of Ms. Wicht’s talks.

by Daryl Tjogas, Piedmont HIgh School Senior

~~~~~~~~~

Let’s Talk!

Last weekend in Piedmont, Piedmont City Council and Piedmont Unified School District held a workshop called “Let’s Talk!.” The workshop is being held on four different weekends throughout the year in the Piedmont Veterans Hall with four sessions each time.

The goal for “Let’s Talk!” is to build a more inclusive Piedmont through conversations with the residents. The workshop attacks problems such as: racial equality, the importance of conversation, and how to build communities.

“Let’s Talk!” promotes attacking these problems with conversation. The workshop teaches people how to listen and respond to ideas that they might not agree with and do so in a respectful and constructive way.

“Let’s Talk” teaches a four step refutation to counter an idea one doesn’t agree with. The four steps are: restate, refute, support, and conclude. This is an effective strategy to argue with someone while still respecting their opinion.

I attended the August 26th workshop. During the workshop, the attendees were put into small groups so they could participate and apply all the skills we learned. This format allowed everyone to practice using the skills we learned and then apply them in the community.

The people in attendance were people who live and work in Piedmont. The people that showed up were people who were looking to share some of their stories and people who were looking to make a difference in their community.

The workshop was filled with many activities to help teach people how to have conversations about difficult subjects. The activities were split between small groups and the whole group. In an activity with the whole group I shared an example of how to practice the four step refutation on how Piedmont High School needs a remodel. After I shared I was reaffirmed by the group that I had mastered the skills they were teaching.

Charlie Richards, a resident of Piedmont who attended the workshop in search of a place that will help build community in Piedmont, claims, “in the community of Piedmont there is comparative wealth and the comparative wealth breeds an independence…creating isolation in the community.” Richards attended the meeting to learn ways to help Piedmont strengthen its community because he feels like Piedmont is divided by ageism and classism.

In the workshop classism was brought up as a major problem for the city because with the lack of diversity, racism is amplified.

All the people in attendance were very supportive and accepting of the varying opinions presented in workshop. Toward the end of the workshop we went over ways to build a more inclusive community using movies, art, and signals of inclusiveness.

All in all “Let’s Talk” taught me and the people of Piedmont that problems such as racism and community building can be improved through the use of conversation.

By Paul Woolcott, Piedmont High School Senior

Sep 5 2018

Dear Editor:

I am proud to support the candidacy of Megan Pillsbury for Piedmont’s most important School Board. When someone so intelligent, even-tempered, and deeply experienced with the most intricate workings of our town’s schools, steps up to serve on the School Board, we all should be grateful. As a beloved and dedicated Elementary School teacher at both Wildwood and Havens, her ever-present concern of the best interests of her students led her to devise new systems of communications between parents and teachers, more academic support and interchange between teachers, and serious curriculum review.

Megan was elected, more than once, by her peers to be Vice President of the teachers’ union because they trusted she could steer a genuine path for teachers, parents and administrators; she worked hard at doing just that. Her experience and training would be invaluable in governing the school decisions Piedmont will soon be facing, such as teacher shortages, STEAM programs and building challenges. Most recently, Megan worked to develop a curriculum for “Amplify Science” at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a digital program for K-3 students. She then volunteered as an outreach educator for the Lawrence Hall programs.

It is time we had the input of a dedicated and experienced academic on Piedmont’s School Board; Megan Pillsbury truly “fits the bill” with her hands-on work right here in our Piedmont schools. She is the perfect candidate at the perfect time to work on ensuring a program of academic excellence for our children delivered by a committed, satisfied faculty.

Nancy Lehrkind
Campaign Co-Chair
Megan Pillsbury for School Board

Aug 31 2018
Community members and students gathered to “build a more inclusive Piedmont through deliberative dialogue”.

Last Sunday, I attended Session I of Let’s Talk, presented by the Piedmont Unified School District, the City of Piedmont, and the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC).  On this specific weekend of August 25th and 26th, there were four Let’s Talk Sessions, and, to my knowledge, Let’s Talk! occurs on four separate weekends a year.

The main goal of the program is to “build a more inclusive Piedmont through deliberative dialogue”. To do this Sara Wicht, the leader from the Southern Poverty Law Center, informed us of the goals for our session: reflecting on how our own identities influence us; engaging in conversations exploring diversity; and learning the tools for quality conversations.

The central issue that Lets Talk! covers is diversity and how Piedmont, a city that currently lacks diversity, can grow to be more inclusive and, hopefully, more diverse.

In order to understand and then embrace diversity, we first went over the main types: economic and racial.

We also learned the four main domains- identity, diversity, justice, and action, and how all of these domains must fit together. Going along with the theme of identity, we engaged in an activity where everyone wrote down eight different traits about themselves (simple things like gender, religion, and race) and then crossed out the traits one-by-one in the order of least significant to most important until each person was left with one. We then discussed how it was only easy to cross out non-threatened categories that you shared with the majority, how nobody’s identity could be defined with a single relatively generic trait, and how this most important trait may shift depending on the company you share.

I thought it was interesting how nearly all of the traits were things that you were born into and could not self-identify with. It led me to question my group: what actually does shape who you are and what is actually most important to you?

I enjoyed the format of the seminar of small table groups (a mixture of strangers and fellow students) to engage in specific conversations with.

Then, after exchanging views, opinions, and experiences with your table, Sara opened it up to the whole room to share main concepts and takeaways from each group.

At my table, Dave McMartry’s story stood out to me. Dave shared with me that he recently moved to Piedmont and he does not intend to stay because of its lack of diversity. He fears that it will not be a suitable environment to raise his multi-racial children. By coming to Let’s Talk!, Dave hoped to become a better parent, develop a better understanding of what living in Piedmont is like for people of color, and see for himself if this community was taking the appropriate steps to becoming more inclusive.

While most of my table, including Dave, was very understanding and accepting of whatever I said, there was one person that seemed to target me when he spoke. I did not say anything disrespectful or offensive towards him (or anyone for that matter) and I am fairly certain that the source of his targeting was me being white. When he spoke he would say things like “you people do not understand” and point and stare directly at me.

This made me quiet down and keep to myself more, not wanting to upset him (even though I do not know what he was upset about in the first place). I felt very supported by my table group other than this man. After he left, I opened back up, sharing experiences, posing questions, and contributing ideas and opinions.

In the big group though, with everyone, at times the conversation could be slightly hostile, given people with opposing views.  One particularly controversial debate regarded the scenario of asking an Asian child to tutor the rest of the class. This played on the stereotype that Asian kids are “smarter” and “better at math”.  With it, we discussed implicit bias and stereotypes, acknowledging how negative their effects can be.

While most of the other students and I were on the side that if the Asian child was actually the smartest kid and was willing to help the rest of the class, then there is no reason for him not to be a tutor.  Much of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee disagreed.  They specified that the teacher should go to the next smartest and most willing kid to do it, avoiding the damaging stereotype towards Asians.

I shared how I thought that, in a way, this would be a step too far, going so far around the issue that it exaggerates it. While much of the community did agree with me, one woman from PADC was extremely opposed.

Ultimately, these slight conflicts taught me that politics is not always black and white.

People will always have contrasting views and this makes it impossible to determine a right answer in most cases.  On top of that, there are varying definitions and degrees of being right, just like the issues of equality and equity.  Different people value them differently, making consensus extremely difficult. Yet, that is exactly the thing “Let’s Talk!” was trying to do: bring the community together to assess our discrepancies and come to a successful common ground regarding diversity and for the most part, I’d say they were successful!

By Mariela Cole, Piedmont High School Senior

1 Comment »
Aug 31 2018

Labor Day Weekend BART to and from Piedmont to San Francisco destinations will take longer –

BART will be making major repairs on their track and other infrastructure between the 19th Street and West Oakland stations over the Labor Day Weekend, September 1-3.  There will be no BART service between those stations.

There will be a free bus bridge provided by AC Transit between 19th Street and West Oakland, with the trip taking between 10 and 15 minutes.  The trip from Rockridge or MacArthur Station to the San Francisco airport or any other San Francisco destination should be expected to take up to 30 minutes longer than normal because of the time needed to transfer between BART stations and buses.

Riders who wish to travel across the Bay should stay on their BART train until 19th Street, take the free bus to West Oakland, and board another BART train to their West Bay destination. In the eastbound direction, passengers should get off BART at West Oakland, take the bus shuttle to 19th St., and then board another BART train.

Normal BART service will resume Tuesday morning.

Read article about the closure here.  Note that the 511 Trip Planner site is not cognizant of the closure or Bus Bridge and presents schedules that assume no interruption between 19th Street Station and West Oakland Station on BART.

Aug 31 2018

2nd Reading of Ordinance 741 N.S. Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions – 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 City Council Consideration, 7:30 p.m. 12o Vista Avenue, Council Chambers.

RECOMMENDATION Take the following actions related to updating City Code provisions related to dogs:

1) Decide whether off leash hours at Dracena Park should match those of the Linda Dog Park, as recommended by the Park Commission (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekends) or should match the overall hours of the park (5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily)

2) Approve the 2nd reading of Ordinance 741 N.S., Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions

3) By motion, set fines for the revised provisions at $100 per violation

Read the 18 page staff report HERE.  Maps are not included in the staff report. 

COMMENTS TO CITY COUNCIL:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Aug 30 2018

On Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at about 10:15 p.m., an alert Piedmont resident on Sharon Avenue called 911 to report two males shining flashlights into her neighbor’s windows.  A third subject was sitting in front of the residence in a vehicle with the motor running.

Piedmont Police officers responded and located the vehicle as it was attempting to flee the scene. All three subjects were detained and arrested for attempted burglary.

The Piedmont Police Department expresses how important these phone calls are when suspicious activities are seen.

Reports to the Police help to keep Piedmont safe.

See something suspicious – call the Piedmont Police Department! 

911 or 510/420-3000

1 Comment »
Aug 30 2018

New Piedmont School Year Brings Foundation Funding and Hiring Crisis at PHS –

On Tuesday, August 21st, the Piedmont School Board held its bi-monthly meeting at City Hall, kicking off the School Board meetings for the 2018 school year.

The agenda was split between the usual items at the beginning of every school year and reports on some of the issues that the School District is already facing.

The meeting began with Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education President Sarah Pearson inviting the representative of the teachers’ union, Mr. Kessler, to deliver the union’s remarks on the upcoming school year. He brought up the “palpable energy” of the new school year, the new initiatives in the Middle School, and the excitement in the new teachers. He requested that the administration and School Board have more faith in the teachers’ methods and allow them more autonomy.

Heather Frank, Executive Director of the Piedmont Education Foundation, presented the Giving Campaign’s annual check to the Piedmont Unified School District. The check was a record-breaking $2,708,421 with $1.4 million dollars dedicated to keeping class sizes smaller.

Board Member Amal Smith commented, “Due to the fact that our state budget is being continually cut, without the efforts of the Piedmont Education Foundation, the District would simply be unable to run.”

The Board opened the Public Forum when attendees could address items not on the agenda.  Senior Casey Lane spoke about her grant request for the Diversity Awareness Club. Mentioning that teenagers are basically dogs and follow food,  and she requested that the Board consider the grant in order to continue fostering diversity in Piedmont. The Board in response thanked her for taking charge of such an important action in Piedmont High School.

As Casey was the only speaker not on the agenda, the Board took up its regular agenda with the confirmation of the new Piedmont High School Director of Athletics, Alphonso Powell.  Superintendent Randall Booker introduced Mr. Powell and commented on his vast experience in the Oakland and San Francisco school districts.  Booker ended by saying “That he was most impressed by Mr. Powell’s experience of teaching in a classroom, a rare trait for an Athletics Director.”  Unsurprisingly, the Board approved Alphonso Powell for Athletic Director on a 5-0 vote.

Superintendent Randall Booker provided the Board with insight on the teacher shortage in Piedmont. He listed nine major vacancies at the beginning of the school year and so far five of them have been filled. He explained the reason for the shortage was the exorbitant Bay Area rent, a lack of qualified teachers and every school district fighting over the few qualified candidates that are left. He ended by asking the Board for patience, as while the District could throw anyone into a classroom and call them a teacher, he is making sure that they do the necessary background checks on any candidate before hiring them.

Personally, I believe that the school hasn’t properly communicated any of the issues with hiring to the students and are focusing far too much on new long-term initiatives and not enough on our current students.  As a student, I would love more than anything else to have smaller class sizes and fewer overworked teachers.  Both problems have only worsened this year.

Before the meeting, I had interviewed Superintendent Randall Booker on the hiring crisis and asked how he was communicating the issues brought up with the Board to the students. He responded, “The administration are doing their best to email parents and students in the affected classes and provide updates.”

I then asked him about alternatives to having substitutes who are unable to teach the classes. In response, he commented that, “The school is looking for any possible part-time teachers until a permanent replacement can be found and in the worst-case scenario, the school is looking at online classes that the students can use through their Chromebooks.”  Mr. Booker’s thoughts reflect the administration’s continued efforts to try and appease parents and students, while finding qualified teachers.

On a more cheerful note, Randall Booker showed the Board a video of the first day of school at all six schools. While without a doubt the elementary school kids were cuter than the high schoolers, the video was heartwarming at every school.

The Board meeting ended with each Board Member adding their personal thoughts on the upcoming school year. Of note was Cory Smegal’s comment on Mr. Booker’s keynote presentation. She complimented him on bringing the teachers, faculty and administration together with his speech on working as one team for the children in the District.

After those comments, the Board adjourned at 8:30, managing to end a half hour early despite the busy schedule and hectic start to the school year.

By Sam Orta, Piedmont High School Senior

Aug 30 2018

Get involved!   Piedmont begins process.

HELP PIEDMONT BE HAZARD-READY !

A Local Hazard Mitigation Plan is being developed by the City of Piedmont. Fires, drought, earthquakes, and severe weather are just a few of the hazards to be addressed in the plan. While hazards such as these cannot be prevented, a Hazard Mitigation Plan forms the foundation for a community’s long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses by breaking the repeated cycle of disaster damage and reconstruction. Additionally, only communities with a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan are eligible to apply for both pre- and post-disaster mitigation grant funding.

Nationwide, taxpayers pay billions of dollars annually helping communities, organizations, businesses, and individuals recover from disaster. Some disasters are predictable and, in many cases, much of the damage can be reduced or even eliminated through hazard mitigation planning.

The people most aware of potential hazards are the people that live and work in the affected community. In addition to plan participation by local, state and federal agencies, the community is seeking all interested community members to hear more about our Local Hazard Mitigation Planning project.

Piedmont encourages attendance and participation from the general public at our upcoming public meeting to kick off the project:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Public Meeting: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Piedmont Community Hall
711 Highland Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611

For additional information, contact Chris Yeager in the Piedmont Planning Department at:

(510) 420-3067 or email at CYeager@piedmont.ca.gov.

Aug 28 2018

Bidding procedures, Council authority regarding Council-hired key employees, candidates for City Council, meeting requirements, etc.

On their November 2018 ballot, Piedmont voters will have two ballot measures, BB and CC, proposing changes to Piedmont’s City Charter.  To become law, changes to the City Charter require a majority of Piedmont voters voting on the measures to approve the measures.  The proposed changes are extensive, ranging from how Piedmont government operates to bidding requirements.

 Arguments for and against the City Charter changes have been filed by proponents and opponents. 

Click below to read the pro and con arguments to be printed in voter information pamphlets. 

~~~~~~~ 

Measure BB – Reduction in bidding requirements,  procedural changes, candidacy for City Council, meeting requirements, etc. 

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE BB “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to modify procedures for filling of vacancies in elected offices for City Council and Board of Education for the Piedmont Unified School District, modify term limits for the City Council, and making other clarifying amendments regarding City recordkeeping, format of City ordinances, public posting, City contract approval, operation of City Council meetings, and other minor technical amendments, be adopted?”

~~~~~~

Measure CC – Eliminates Council authority over  Council-hired key employees  –

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE  CC “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to clarify the duties and reporting structure for officers and employees of the City be adopted?”

City Charter Measures BB and CC will be on Piedmont November 6, 2018 Ballots.

Updated 8/29/18
Aug 28 2018

During the month of August, the Piedmont Police Department has seen an uptick in the number of package thefts being reported.

Below are some pictures captured by neighborhood video surveillance in the 800 block of Blair Avenue, the 1500 block of Grand Avenue and the 100 block of Sunnyside Avenue, where packages were taken from the front porch of several homes. Vehicles associated with these thefts were a newer blue/grey 4 door hybrid SUV and a white moped/scooter with a black seat.

Police Tips for safe package delivery:

 1-Don’t leave packages out for extended periods of time. Reach out to your neighbors and ask them to bring packages inside.

2-Use an alternate shipping address like work or a friend/relative that you know will be home to receive packages.

3-Choose shipping options that provide for advanced package tracking, allow you to redirect a package, receive detailed updates on estimated delivery time, and send an email or text once your package has been delivered.

4-Install a security camera. Security cameras can deter burglars, keep your packages safer, and help you keep an eye on your home while you’re away. Products like Nest Cam Outdoor and the Ring doorbell are inexpensive ways to increase security.

If you have any information regarding these thefts, contact Piedmont Police Department Detective R. Coffey at 510-420-3015.

2 Comments »